Document 41: "The PROBE Papers," Number 13, July 1971, Jean King Papers, Box 3, U-M Disc Folder, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. 4 pp.


   PROBE, the group of University of Michigan women that organized to support the HEW investigation of sex discrimination at the University, eventually created a series of regular memos to campus women, reporting back on developments and highlighting new issues, often with a touch of wit.

   In July 1971, HEW Secretary Elliot L. Richardson had still not rendered a decision on whether his agency could move against discrimination in graduate school admissions. This remained a major issue for American college presidents, including U-M President Robben W. Fleming.

   This issue of "The PROBE Papers" includes an article headlined, "Fairly Frequently Famous Feminists Frequent Ann Arbor to Flaunt Fleming Flagrantly," about a visit from Ann Scott, federal contract compliance coordinator of the National Organization for Women (NOW) (see Document 38) and Mary Jean Collins-Robson, NOW’s Midwest regional director. (In a compilation of Ann Arbor women’s groups distributed nine months earlier, Robson was listed as the contact for NOW because the organization did not yet have an Ann Arbor chapter.)[129] Robson, the newsletter reported, had said that "as a result of the HEW investigation of the U. of M., Ann Arbor is regarded as a Midwestern feminist mecca."

[p. 1]

The PROBE Papers

No. 13

1. Fairly Frequently Famous Feminists Frequent Ann Arbor to Flaunt Fleming Flagrantly

2. Probing Around

3. HEW, Grad Admissions and U

P.O. Box 317
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48107

July 1971

[p. 2]


    "I'm a woman. I'm strong. I have something to say." (Rep. Bella Abzug, D-NY)

    It's all true, folks.

    Bella was one of the favorite feminists PROBE brought to Ann Arbor this spring, and we heard what she has to say. She talked on the need to break the grip of the military on U.S. society, to allocate resources humanely, and to make the leadership representative of the nation in terms of race, class, occupation, and definitely sex. Bella, along with Shirley Chisolm,[A] is sponsoring a 10 billion dollar day care bill. She came out strong for abortion law repeal, peace, day care, and heavy involvement of women in all sectors of the nation's life. Bella is living testimony to what feminism could do for the U.S. Bella is beautiful!!

    (Say, we all know women make good secretaries. How about Bella for Secretary of Defense?)

    We also invited Ann Scott to Ann Arbor to meet with PROBE and other University women's groups. Dr. Scott is a professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo[B] and is Contract Compliance Coordinator and a National Board member of NOW (National Organization for Women). She is also the author of NOW's model affirmative action plan. Dr. Scott had a great deal of advice and legal information, and her suggestions will aid PROBE in its battle to end sex discrimination at the U. of M.

    A more recent visitor was Mary Jean Collins-Robson, Midwest Regional Director of NOW. Her visit resulted in the organization of a strong and growing local NOW chapter (for more information on the local chapter, call Mary Jill Ault at 971-2896).

    Mary Jean brought a good deal of news about NOW, e.g., NOW chapters are forming across the country at the rate of two a week and NOW is rapidly gaining support for national issues critical to the welfare of women. NOW members are strongly in favor of the Abzug-Chisolm day care bill and have fought long and tirelessly for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. A suit charging the entire U.S. public school system with sex discrimination was recently filed by NOW, and a similar complaint has been lodged against all medical schools in the country. A large turn-out is hoped for at the next NOW National Conference, to be held in Los Angeles over Labor Day weekend. Charter flight reservations from Chicago to Los Angeles are still available at reasonable rates through the end of July (for further information, contact Gaye Crouch at 764-7480).

    Mary Jean also reported that as a result of the HEW investigation of the U. of M., Ann Arbor is regarded as a midwestern feminist mecca. OK, women, let's live up to that reputation.

[p. 3]


    The problem of undesired attentions from obnoxious men has plagued women since time began, and no one has come up with any very good suggestions as to how to deal with it.

    Women receive no support whatever from the law. A man may bother you with any sort of rude remark or suggestion, and court's view is "boys will be boys"; no legal remedy is available. If you take the law into your own hands and give him a slap, a kick in the crotch, or a few well placed karate chops, he could charge you with assault. So you women who are earning your black belts, watch out.

    Short of risking arrest, what can you do? Here are some thoughts, gathered from painful experience. We don't endorse them, but just pass them on for your perusal.

    1. Mother's advice: "Just ignore them, dear." Oh, come on, Mom. Why should those bastards be privileged to make my life miserable for their amusement. Aren't I a taxpayer and a citizen, too?

    2. Reply with obscene gestures and remarks. Ordinarily a bad idea. You'll probably just inspire fits of juvenile laughter and even more annoying advances. These clowns simply don't realize that "fuck off" means "fuck off!" Occasionally an unusually inspired reply may work-- e.g., "Don't come wheezing after me like a turkey with a hard-on"--but ordinarily you're just in for more annoyance.

    3. Sometimes mimicking them works. If they just want to make you mad, whistling back at them making sucking noises, and following them will usually put a damper on their boyish good humor. On the other hand, if they're really trying to pick you up, this technique may backfire.

    4. One local feminist has had good luck with what she calls the "Nauseated Crotch Shot." She looks the offending male directly in the face, lets her eyes travel down his body to his crotch, and contorts her face into a truly inspired look of incredulous repugnance. Men find this disconcerting.

    5. How about just not playing the game? Adopt no ploy. Without rancor, sarcasm, or anger just tell the interloper how his sort of attentions make you feel and how disinterested you really are. Who knows? It might work.

[p. 4]


    Should HEW investigate sex discrimination in graduate admissions? According to some lawyers, the Executive Order which prohibits discrimination by federal contractors covers this if graduate admissions is related to employment.

    During negotiations on the affirmative action plan, HEW and the University Administration could not agree as to whether grad admissions is significantly related to employment. HEW contended that it is, and predictably though ludicrously, the Administration contended that it is not. To break the impasse, the two parties agreed in December to submit the question to HEW Secretary Richardson; his decision would set the policy for future HEW investigations all over the country. What was his precedent-setting decision?


    To date, Mr. Richardson has been unable to take time out of his busy schedule and decide whether grad admissions relates to employment.

    PROBE, of course, has a position. We've conveyed it to the Women's Commission, to Robben Fleming, and to various HEW officials. We'd be happy to summarize it for the benefit of Secretary Richardson if it might move him to action. Briefly, our position is this:


    a). In some instances, teaching is required of the Ph.D. candidate, making employment unseverable from admissions.

    b). In some job categories (e.g., teaching fellows), virtually all employees are graduate students. Once again, the job is unseverable from admissions.

    c). In all but highly unusual cases, students do work for the University in the course of graduate study.

    d). Labor Department guidelines for the enforcement of Executive Orders 11246 and 11375 clearly require non-discrimination and affirmative action in training programs. Since the only training program for college teaching is the Ph.D. program, the guidelines should apply to graduate admissions.

    To summarize, graduate students are regular employees. If there is discrimination against female graduate students in admissions, then there is employment discrimination, for employment is dependent on admissions.

    We'd like to add that it seems to us highly improper for the University Administration to spend the taxpayers' money on lawyers and lobbyists who are trying to secure permission for the University to continue discriminatory practices. Why doesn't the Administration take a more admirable route and devote these resources to combatting discrimination?

    Maybe it's because they're just nasty old men.


A. U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York. She and U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.) were among the women who founded the National Women's Political Caucus the same month as this PROBE publication appeared.
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B. State University of New York at Buffalo.
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